Our backyard. For the adventurous angler, it offers an endless playground. What it lacks in blue-ribbon trout streams 5 minutes from our doorstep, it more than makes up for in variety, uniqueness, and solitude. At any given time of the year, anglers have a slew of choices when it comes to where to go wet a line, and with a landscape that brings glacial peaks directly to the sea, the venues are endless.
The Olympic Peninsula has made a name to itself for its once legendary runs of Salmon and Steelhead, and rivers like the Sol Duc, Hoh, and Queets take much of the spotlight…for good reason. But being that it’s a temperate rainforest nestled into rugged mountain terrain, small creeks and streams make up the vast majority of “river miles” here. That means lifetimes worth of exploration for the small-stream angler. Pick any blue line on a map, and there’s a pretty good chance – as long as you can pitch a fly – there will be a fish waiting to eat it; and that’s exactly what we did a couple weeks ago.
With modern technology and resources, many anglers are familiar with the task of scanning satellite imagery searching for the promise of pristine trout fishing. This is great to a point, but when the creek is undetectable underneath a thick forest canopy, there’s no telling what the casting quarters are going to look like with boots on the ground. This is where the 6’ 6” 3-weight DART rod comes into play. After all, it was developed for precisely this scenario. It’s incredibly compact length allows you to effectively fish in extremely tight quarters, while the 3-weight blank is capable of handling whatever quarry you may encounter. Armed with a pair of these tailor-made reconnaissance tools, we headed to the mountains in search of unspoiled waters and eager native trout.
Upon arrival at the trailhead, the pocket water and plunge pool nature of the creek revealed itself as it tumbled rapidly down the steep grade. Our plan of action was to hike about 4.5 miles upstream to a series of meadows near its headwaters, then fish our way down. Naturally though, especially as the trail followed the water the whole way, we couldn’t resist dipping our flies in occasionally along the way. To our surprise, we quickly discovered that there was a healthy mix of native Rainbow Trout and Bull Trout.
Water here is pure, cold, and comes straight from towering peaks all around the valley. Bull Trout require some of the cleanest and coldest water of all trout species and are a great indicator of a healthy ecosystem. It was a real unexpected treat to encounter a few in such a pristine wilderness.
Once we made it up to the meadows, plunge pools were replaced with runs and riffles, and towering hemlock swapped with choking brush. At many points we discovered the brush completely blanketed the creek making it necessary to find an alternate route to continue upstream. A few miles were certainly added to our day’s count scrambling around. Where the brush gave way, old growth logs strewn over the creek were sure to take their place. There was no lack of structure and snags, and as with any good trout stream, the best fish generally required the trickiest of presentations. The only difference here was that almost every presentation was tricky; a bow and arrow cast quickly became an essential maneuver.
We paired the 366-3 DART rods with a couple CLICK reels loaded with RIO’s Creek line for ammunition. This combination is about as perfect a setup for the application as it gets. The DART features what we like to call a “close quarters fast action” design. It is easily loaded down into the butt giving it incredible feel and sensitivity in hand, while the quick tip allows for a high line speed and tight loop formations. Having a rod capable of producing high line speeds at close range is critical to driving a narrow loop to effectively tuck flies under over-hanging brush and accurately place them in the fishiest zones despite uber-tight quarters. The whole DART series is optimized for sub-forty foot casts, with the 366-3 excelling in the five to thirty foot range. The Creek line’s short head and aggressive weight-forward taper is the ideal complement to this system, easily loading the rod with hardly any line out of the rod tip.
A crystal-clear pool at the top of the meadow greeted us with plenty of splashy risers and the opportunity to sight-cast a few sitting tight to the bank. After a few encounters, a quick snack, and some fresh filtered water, we started back downstream to hit the pocket-water and plunge-pools we reluctantly skipped on the hike up; and yes – these too provided endless entertainment and beautiful native trout.
The day’s fishing could pretty much be summed up by saying that anywhere that looked like it could hold a trout, did, and anytime a bushy dry fly was well placed into the zone, it got eaten. Fishing small creeks like this one are a prime example of the experiences our love for wild fish in wild places afford us.
At the end of the day when breaking the rods down, Alex realized he still had on the same dry fly he tied on at the start. Through all the hungry fish, tight quarters, thick brush, and endlessly tricky casts, the same fly managed to stay fastened to the same piece of 4x tippet. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, either way we like to think using the right tools had some play in it; a good testament to the effectiveness of the 6’6” DART. And as an added bonus for all those that love to abruptly jam on the brakes at every bridge-over-water eyeing for the possibility of hungry trout, the 6’6” DART can be left fully rigged and pretty easily ride shotgun in the passenger seat of your car… ready at a moment’s notice.
BLUE LINING SETUP
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— DL & Alex, Team SageRod: DART 366-3 Reel: CLICK 3/4/5 Line: RIO Creek WF3F
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